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As many of you know, I was born and raised in Senegal, West Africa. Senegal is a beautiful country, full of bright imagery and calming scenery. It’s hard to describe the people there, but they are fundamentally happy. Sometimes it feels like a Disney movie, where people sing, dance and enjoy one another’s company without occasion. It’s beautiful.

But for all its beauty, Senegal is still a developing country. Colonized by France, the country gained independence in 1960. And like any young country, there’s work to be done to build it into a stronger nation for its people (by its people). Educating girls and young women is one area where Sub-Saharan African countries struggle. 

Globally, the majority of countries with female enrollment ratios of less than 10 percent are located in sub-Saharan Africa. The widest gender disparities related to literacy also exist there, where 41% of women are illiterate, compared to 27% for men. An average of 44% of women have never attended school in sub-Saharan Africa (all stats are according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.)

Growing up and even today, there are many people who believe that the best way to give something to your child is to get them out of the country. If they can go somewhere else, they will have a chance to be successful. The title of “elsewhere” gives emigrants power over those who stay in their country. Often, even educated women are expected to be caregivers regardless of any other work they do. Taking care of a family is a woman’s main job. And while taking care of a family is important work, women everywhere deserve to be educated, independent and they deserve an even playing field. 

Studies have shown over and over that the best way to sustain a nation is through education. When you educate women, the entire village succeeds. That’s why we are so passionate about educating young girls and women, and about celebrating Senegalese culture and craftsmanship through radical respect. We believe that empowering Senegalese girls to serve their country as doctors, scientists, engineers and leaders, will lead to economic improvements and create a ripple effect in healthcare, infrastructure, technological innovation and the livelihood of all people. Nobody is free until we’re all free.

Photo by Bizenga Dasilvio
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